Vikings play Jefferson Tuesday at home for shot at Salem Academy Thursday to make 3A state playoffs

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS  - Colton senior Hayden Vest delivers a pitch against Salem Academy on May 2. Vest will play a crucial role in
the games to follow, and he'll have to watch his pitch count Tuesday if he wants to help the Viks beat Salem
Academy Thursday for a shot at the Class 3A state playoffs.

Before May 6, Colton's baseball team was sitting five games under .500 at 4-9 overall and struggling to stay afloat in the PacWest Conference.

But then something clicked and the Viks began to pull things together, winning their next five games in a row to rocket them up in the standings and secure third place outright. They finished the regular season at 9-10, 8-7, their best record in nine seasons when they went 15-10, 9-7 back in 2008, eventually falling to Burns in the 3A state semifinal game.

And this year, first-year coach Bryan Woodward said their key these past few weeks has been revamping their focus levels. They even upset no. 7 Blanchet Catholic, who took first in the conference, on senior night 9-8.

"We hit well, but beyond that, like I've been saying all year, the defensive effort and being focused is what won that game," Woodward said. "They kept their focus throughout, and when Blanchet would come back and get a little bit of a lead, they didn't lose focus and they said 'OK, here we go, let's do it again.'"

Weather permitting, Colton will play Jefferson at 5 p.m. Tuesday at home, and the winner of that game will take on Salem Academy Thursday for a shot at the class 3A playoff bracket.

Woodward started senior Hayden Vest on the mound against the Cavaliers on May 8 for senior night, and then pulled him to conserve his pitch count to allow him to throw against Jefferson and, hopefully, Salem Academy this week.

Colton hoped to get six in a row to end the regular season, but ended up falling 9-8 in extra innings to Gervais in their second game of the double header Friday night.

"On the flipside, they lost their focus Friday night and we saw the effects of that," Woodward said.

Moving on to Jefferson Tuesday, Woodward said he pitched Vest against them and would like to do the same this time, but doesn't know if he will since they'll need him on Thursday against the Crusaders, assuming Colton beats the Lions. He said he might start with Vest for an inning or two, but he wants to save him as much as possible.

"The last time I pulled Hayden against Salem Academy it was a one-run game and we ended up losing, so I think that's our best shot," Woodward said.

"I'm really proud of the boys, it's the first time in many years they've gotten a shot at a playoff game, and for league play this is the first time in a while they've finished where they did," he said. "They're playing well, hitting the ball better, and when we keep our focus throughout the whole game, that's the most crucial thing."

Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
503-829-2301 ext. 341
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